Level 16 - Colossus
June 6, 1944
D-Day in military terms is an unnamed day in which an operation or military offensive is to be launched. On the shores of Normandy, one of the most daring and rewarding strikes ever recorded by man kind occurred in June of the year 1944. The US First Army allied forces with the British Second Army under Generals Omar N. Bradley and Miles C. Dempsey. President Eisenhower had ordered 850,000 soldiers along with 150,000 vehicles along the beaches of Normandy. Adolph Hitler, who was considered by some as a tactical genius, refused to believe that this was the allies main attack. He failed to reinforce his holdings on the shore and instead prepared a puissant counterattack north of the Seine River. This is believed by some as his most fatal mistake. Today we know this colossal invasion as D-Day.
Midsummer 1943, Nazi Germany was at its zenith. Their Blitzkrieg or “lightning war” tactics had given the control of all of the mainland Europe except for neutral Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, and Sweden. At this time Soviet leader Joseph Stalin pushed US President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to mount a force against the powerful Germans. Plans though always fell through due to lack of numbers and insufficient military craft. Britain however, began to conjure theoretical plans to return to the main land. Then on December 11, 1941 Hitler declared war against the United States. This caused military officials to begin planning their own timetable. The two then sternly pressed for an early invasion. Initially, wishful thinking set an attack in 1943. George Marshall, chief of staff for President Roosevelt, appointed Dwight D. Eisenhower to scheme an operational that would result in an allied victory.
This led to Operation “Sledgehammer and Operation “Roundup.” Operation “Sledgehammer” was set for 1942 and would only occur in the event of either a Russian collapse or a weakening in Germany’s strongholds. Operation “Roundup” was to be set for 1943 and was less sperratic than “Sledgehammer.” After adopting the Roundup plan, the British persuaded the Americans to land in North Africa in Operation “Torch.” This subsequently postponed Operation “Sledgehammer.” The invasion was again delayed by operations in Sicily and the Italian mainland. After many meetings, Roosevelt and Stalin combined against Churchill and set May 1944 as the date of the invasion on Normandy. In return to the US, Stalin promised to join the States in the effort against Japan after Germany was defeated. Being out-voted, Churchill and his Lieutenant General Morgan prepared Operation “Overlord.” This distributed the invasion on the shore between three divisions. Then within two weeks, eleven more divisions were to land. Once territory was established, one-hundred regiments were to land for the final assault on to Germany. Hitler was anticipating an attack on France’s coast but battles in the mainland occupied too many of his troops and he didn’t have the man power to take the threat seriously. He then decided that it was too important to overlook and appointed Erwin Rommel to inspector of coastal defenses. At this time, the allies appointed Bernard Montgomery as invasion Commander, and Bertram Ramsay as naval Commander. Also Trafford Leigh-Mallory was dubbed air chief Commander. Five divisions were preparing in land in five code-named beaches; Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. There were two American, two British, and one Canadian divisions. Also American and British airborne divisions were to flank the outsides. The US First Army was headed by General Omar Bradley. The two British and the Canadian division combined to form the British Second Army, which was headed by General Miles Dempsey.
The preparations were now being set and the operation was a go. They had crossed the point of no return. 6,500 ships were being prepared along with over 13,000 fighter, bomber, and transport aircraft. Beginning on April 1, preliminary air strikes were conducted. 11,000 aircraft’s were deployed dropping 195,000 tons of bombs on French centers, German air fields, radar installations and military bases. Most of these air attacks were to deceive the Nazi into thinking landings would be made more north-east than what the actual plan called for. In what might have been the most catalystic event in the war, Allies were able to decode encrypted transmissions of where the counterattack forces would be stationed. The Allies then created a “phantom” army to be purposely found out about. Superior technology allowed the Allies to block German radar and further create an illusion is the phantom army. It is said that Hitler and a last minute premonition of a Normandy landing, but by this time it was too late for changes. He had however, laid four million mines along the beaches. On May 17, D-Day was postponed until June 5 to further gather landing craft. Bad weather caused a short delay until on the morning of June 5, announced, ”O.K. We’ll go.” Within hours, 6,000 landing crafts, naval vessels and other ships left English ports.
As the American 82nd and 101st airborne divisions suffered many loses, it was the British 6th Division which was able to reach its objectives more easily. At approximately 6:30 AM, on the morning of June 6, 1944, the seaborne units began to arrive along the coast. At the Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches, the British and the Canadians over came the little resistance. The Americans also easily established a foot hold on Utah. At Omaha Beach however, the American First Division met the best of the German soldiers. By days end the shore was divided into three section: British and Canadian, American 7th Corps, and the American 5th Corps. Penetration was deep. The American 7th had driven nearly 15 miles inland.
The invasion of Normandy had ended. D-Day had occurred. There were however, many battles to be fought. Most won by the Allies. Few probably would ever have happened had we decided not to invade on the beaches of France. That single tactical event changed the war. June 6, 1944 shall never be forgotten.